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Will Brexit harm healthy eating?

Tuesday January 29th, 2019

British diet will deteriorate badly after Brexit - and suffer catastrophic effects in the event of a No Deal, academics claim today.

Researchers predicted 12,400 extra deaths from cardiovascular disease in the next decade linked to poor diet in the event of a No Deal Brexit.

The researchers at Imperial College, London, base their findings on predictions about the impact on imports of fruit and vegetables. They report them in BMJ Open.

The study was led by Professor Christopher Millett, from the college's school of public health, and Professor Martin O'Faherty, from Liverpool University.

Pro-Brexit campaigners dismissed the findings, describing the professors as "junior medical researchers."

The researchers say that 84% of fruit and 43% of vegetables in the UK are imported. They conclude that No Deal would lead to a 17% price increase in bananas, 14% in citrus fruits and 15% in tomatoes. They say they have analysed information on tariffs from the World Trade Organisation and point out that most citrus fruits and tomatoes are imported from EU countries.

Professor O'Flaherty said: “Our findings are consistent with other research suggesting that Brexit would increase the price of fruit and vegetables. Unhealthy diets are a leading driver of ill health in the UK and a critical policy lever to tackle chronic diseases. Staying within the European Union appears the best option to protect public health.”

Professor Millett said: "This study shows that the impact of Brexit will reach far beyond the economy and may affect people’s risk of disease. The UK government must consider the public health implications of Brexit trade policy options, including changes to the price of key food groups.”

Pro-Brexit campaigners argue that, outside the EU, Britain will be able to source imports from around the world without EU tariffs being levied.

Edgar Miller, convenor of Economists for Free Trade, told the Daily Telegraph: “This is Project Fear at its very worst – a report written by a group of generally junior medical researchers none of whom have any discernible expertise in trade theory or experience in modelling trade flows."

* The government will prioritise medicine over food in the event of a No Deal exit next month, health secretary Matt Hancock told MPs yesterday.

Paraskevi Seferidi et al. Impacts of Brexit on fruit and vegetable intake and cardiovascular disease in England: a modelling study. BMJ Open 29 January 2019; doi 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026966

Tags: Diet & Food | Europe | UK News

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